Can Private Prisons Keep Inmates Healthy?


To address overcrowding and inadequate medical care in its corrections system, California is once again turning to private prisons. This time, however, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is planning to send women to a privately run prison.

In April, California contracted with GEO Group to open a 260-bed women’s prison in Bakersfield. The prison is scheduled to open in fall 2014, with the contract effective through June 30, 2018.

The contract includes an opportunity for GEO Group to expand its prison by another 260 beds, which would increase the overall four-year revenue for the prison from $38,132,640 to $66,394,276. Unlike contracts for other privately-run prisons, this agreement does not include a lock-up quota. Instead, CDCR will pay for actual occupancy – $94.50 per person per day for each of the first 260 women sent to GEO Group’s McFarland Female Community Reentry facility.

If the prison takes in more than 260 women, CDCR will pay $86.95 per day for each woman, i.e. the contract provides CDRC with incentive to turn more women over to the prison.

The GEO Group, however, has a history that includes sexual abuse and poor medical care in its jails and prisons—and the plan has drawn criticism from advocates.

“The new for-profit GEO prison contract and its Alternative Custody Program (ACP) are both ways that CDCR are using to claim they can relieve overcrowding despite historical evidence that creating more bed space means creating more prisons that will soon be overcrowded,” said Misty Rojo, program coordinator of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

“CDCR refuses to work with advocates to create an ACP that actually allows the access and population reductions it was intended. GEO is a prison where there is no oversight and little information except these are for profit, not rehabilitation, and people in women’s prisons will find themselves suffering the same destructions of family and community in a different prison setting.”

In an investigative article for Truthout, journalist Vikki Law, a 2013 John Jay/Langeloth Foundation Reporting Fellow, explores the issue. Read her full article HERE.

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